Veterans Will Have More Access to Private Health Care Under New V.A. Rules

By Jennifer Steinhauer | Jan. 30, 2019 Published in the New York Times

WASHINGTON — Veterans who live as little as a 30-minute drive from a Veterans Affairs health care facility will instead be able to choose private care, the most significant change in rules released Wednesday as part of the Trump administration’s effort to fix years-old problems with the health system.

Veterans who can prove they must drive for at least 30 minutes to a Department of Veterans Affairs facility will be allowed to seek primary care and mental health services outside the department’s system. Current law lets veterans use a private health care provider if they must travel 40 miles or more to a V.A. clinic. Measuring commuting time rather than distance will greatly open the private sector to veterans in rural and high-traffic urban areas.

Supporters say the new policy, which is likely to go into effect in June, will help veterans get faster and better care. But critics fear it will prompt the erosion of the largest integrated health care system in the country as billions of dollars are redirected to private care.

The goal of the new policy, officials say, is to provide veterans with easier, streamlined access to health care.

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